Friday, November 22, 2013

Louis K. Liggett Co. v. Lee case brief

Louis K. Liggett Co. v. Lee case brief summary
288 U.S. 517 (1933)

Appellants, chain store owners, sought review of a decree from the Supreme Court of Florida that affirmed the dismissal of a bill in a suit brought by appellants to enjoin appellees, state taxing officers, from enforcing a store licensing act, 1931 Fla. Laws ch. 15624, on the grounds that the act lay a discriminatory tax on chain stores.

Appellants, chain store owners, filed a class bill praying that appellees, state tax officials, be enjoined from enforcing 1931 Fla. Laws ch. 15624, a state licensing statute. Appellants challenged the statute as violative of, inter alia, the due process and equal protection clauses of U.S. Const. amend. XIV, and of the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. Appellees' motion to dismiss was granted and subsequently affirmed by the state's supreme court.

  • On further appeal of questions arising under the U.S. Constitution, the Court reversed the judgment and remanded the cause. 
  • The Court found that §5, which increased the tax if the stores were located in more than one county, was unreasonable and arbitrary and violated the equal protection clause of U.S. Const. amend. XIV. 
  • However, U.S. Const. amend. XIV did not prevent the State from imposing differing taxes upon different trades and professions or varying the rates of excise upon various products. 
  • Accordingly, the fact that filling stations engaged exclusively in the sale of gasoline were exempted from the tax laid on appellants was not offensive to the guaranties of the amendment.
The Court reversed a decree affirming the dismissal of appellants' bill, and the cause was remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with the Court's opinion. The Court found that certain provisions in the act violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, but that others that exempted filling stations engaged exclusively in the sale of gasoline from a licensing tax did not offend the guaranties of the Amendment.

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